Survey of Songs and Poetry from Australian Newspapers 1890–1893

Mark Gregory


Sixty years ago the Canberra Times reported a Literary Fund lecture, delivered by then PhD student Russel Ward, surveying bush songs:–
Australia's founding fathers were an integral part of an old and very stable Society, and they tended to take for granted the basic assumptions on which that society rested. Mr. Ward said this spirit quickly changed in Australia. Respect for the squire, based on traditional obligations, which were at least to some extent mutual, was not transformed into respect for a commercial slave-master whose wealth was often ill-gotten and always recently acquired.
The first folk-songs composed in Australia reflected quite different feeling… Honest men, it was felt, should defy authority, rather than submit to it … Long before the gold rushes, folk-lore came to regard the bush-worker, ex-convict or free as the 'typical Australian', truculently independent towards his employer; in proportion as he was dependent upon the collective strength of 'mateship'. The folk-hero was the 'wild colonial boy' who robbed squatters and judges, fought policemen; and forever galloped over the plains with his fellow bushmen, he said.


Australian Folk Songs; TROVE; newspapers; workers; Lawson; Patterson;

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